Coaching change. Fresno State was long known under former coach Pat Hill for the “anywhere, anytime” mantra. His team took that to heart and played anyone. In the early part of the last decade, that mantra was worn with pride as Fresno State went about their business with exceptional results. The rise of other non AQ powers relegated Fresno State to the lower echelon of college football finishing the 2011 season with a 4-9 record.
Like Oregon's first opponent, its second is also breaking in a new coach. Tim DeRuyter arrived at Fresno State after working as the defensive coordinator for Texas A&M for the past two seasons. Despite their poor defense in 2011, DeRuyter has had an excellent record at turning defenses around. DeRuyter runs a 3-4 defense and employs aggressive schemes on defense.
Returning Starters: 6
Key returners: Derek Carr, QB, 6-3, 205, Redshirt Junior; Robbie Rouse, RB, 5-7, 185, Junior, Jalen Saunders, WR, 5-9, 160, Junior
Key Losses: Bryce Harris, LT; Devon Wylie, WR; Ryan Skidmore, TE
Key Arrivals: None
Dave Schramm arrives as the offensive coordinator after spending seven season with the University of Utah. Schramm has three exceptional weapons in his arsenal with the return of Carr, Rouse and Saunders.
Derek Carr is the younger brother of former number one pick David Carr. Despite the teams poor record last season, Carr performed well throwing the ball a lot for the Bulldogs and completing 279-446 for 3544 yards, 26 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Carr lost his left tackle to graduation after the 2011 season, but he has 3 returning linemen with plenty of experience.
Catching the ball from Carr will be a primary deep threat, Jalen Saunders. Saunders led the team in receiving yards last season with 50 receptions for 1065 yards and 12 touchdowns. Saunders' 21.3 yards per catch was second best in the nation. The Bulldogs also welcome the return of possession receiver Rashad Evans. Another returning starter from 2011 Evans added 44 catches for 351 yards last season. The key departure from this group is departed senior Devon Wylie. Wylie led the team in receptions with 56 catches for 716 yards and a touchdown of his own.
The running game was a one man show for the Bulldogs. Robbie Rouse was 7th in the nation in rushing yards and 9th in yards per game last season. Rouse carried the ball 329 times for 1549 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. Rouse is also deadly out of the backfield with 32 receptions for 228 yards and 1 touchdown.
Early Offense Prediction: New offensive coordinator Dave Schramm has plenty of weapons to work with at Fresno State. After watching the Duck defensive backs give up some big plays against USC, you can be sure that Schramm will try to go deep on the Ducks and stretch the field vertically. IF Fresno State can get the passing game going early, it will allow plenty of running room for Rouse. Should the game turn into a shootout, Fresno State certainly has a lot of weapons to work with again this season. Though Fresno State put up a respectable 412 yards per game of total offense, they turned those yards into just 28.5 points per game. The Bulldogs will move the ball at times and will pose a challenge offensively. Fresno State will likely score some points and keep the game tight into the second half of the game.
Key returners:Travis Brown, 6-2, 235, OLB, Senior; Matt Akers, 6-2, 245, DE, Senior; L.J. Jones, 5-11, 180, CB, Junior
Key Losses: Logan Harrell, DT; Chase McEntee, DT; Kyle Knox, OLB
The best defensive player in 2011 is also their biggest loss heading into the 2012 season. The defense must replace Logan Harrell who accounted for 71 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 6 sacks out of his defensive tackle position. Also gone is Chase McEntee who played nose tackle for the Bulldogs (in their terminology) in 2011. These losses notwithstanding, the team returns its leading tackler for 2011 (Brown) and leading defensive playmaker (Jones) from last season.
Despite the gaudy numbers put up by the top three players on this unit in 2011, the defense gave up 435 total yards per game on the season including 167 yards per game rushing and 269 yards per game through the air. DeRuyter will look to bring a different life to this team with his 304 attacking defense that he has been so successful with prior to his arrival at Fresno State. Do not let Texas A&M's struggles in 2011 fool you into thinking that DeRuyter is not an exceptional defensive coach. He has had success turning defenses around at every stop and will have a lot of key elements back to help him make this team better in 2012.
Early Defense Prediction: Fresno State will not be intimidated by Autzen Stadium and Coach DeRuyter will have his team ready to play on defense. They will be aggressive and attack the Ducks young quarterback. What DeRuyter and the Fresno State defense will be missing is speed to the edge and depth. Those factors will loom large as the game wears on and the Ducks begin to employ their plethora of weapons. Do not be surprised if the Bulldogs keep Oregon out of the end zone early in this game and make the game close for a while; their defense will be ready to play. However, due to the lack of depth and speed at the linebacker position, expect the Ducks to be able to move the ball well and score a lot of points.
OREGON WILL WIN IF: The Ducks will win if they keep the Bulldog passing game in front of them and do not make any mental errors on defense. As always, the Ducks will need to limit their turnovers on offense and play crisp football, executing the offense and continuing to put pressure on the Bulldog defense.
OREGON WILL LOSE IF: If Oregon comes out flat on offense and makes mental errors on defense allowing Fresno State to jump to an early lead, it could be a long day for Duck fans. Fresno State has enough offensive weapons to make the Ducks pay for their mistakes. If the Ducks turn the ball over early, look for Fresno State to attack and try to take the home field advantage away quickly.
PREDICTED OUTCOME: Close early, but Oregon's speed and depth should provide enough of a difference to win comfortably.